On Tuesday Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins achieved a type of immortality that has eluded all but a handful of poets: he appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. In addition to discussing his new book, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, Collins talked about his time as Poet Laureate, describing how one becomes Poet Laureate (“you get a call from the Librarian of Congress”), what the Poet Laureate’s job is (“you don’t have to write…occasional poems” like the British Poet Laureate), and his “cool office” up in the “attic” of the Jefferson Building. We agree with Billy that it’s a “nice attic.”
When it comes to being the poetry’s media darling, however, Collins still has some work to do to catch up to another former Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky. Pinsky has appeared twice on The Colbert Report, once to gift high school boys with his poem “Promvitation,” a “promposal” guaranteed to get them a date to the prom, and once to judge the classic Meta-Free-Phor-All between Stephen Colbert and Sean Penn. And unlike his predecessor, Pinsky’s pop culture laurels extend to an appearance in an episode of The Simpsons. We don’t agree with Stephen Colbert that compared to speaking with three-term Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky he was “slumming” by speaking to merely two-term Poet Laureate Billy Collins, but Billy clearly needs to step up his game to achieve Pinsky’s pop culture success. His appearance on The Colbert Report was a great start.